- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 6, 2011

Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s well-equipped but poorly trained security forces can wage a protracted battle against rebel fighters, allowing the beleaguered Libyan leader to cling to power for months, according to analysts and former Libyan officials.

“If things go the way they are, I think he could last for more than a month, a few months. That would be disastrous for the rest of Libya,” said Mohamed Yousef Al-Megariaf, a critic of the regime who quit his post as Libya’s ambassador to India in 1980.

“The reason he is hanging on is not because he is popular, but because of the number of troops who belong to his tribe, the volume of his weapons and his willingness to inflict an unimaginable degree of suffering on the Libyan people,” he added.

James Phillips, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said he fears that the regime could hold out for years, at least in a defensive manner.

“It appears that the opposition forces are too weak to liberate Tripoli and other strongholds of support for Gadhafi,” Mr. Phillips said. “We may be headed into a prolonged civil-war-type situation.”

Fighters against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi carry a comrade fatally injured to a hospital in the oil town of Ras Lanouf, in eastern Libya, on Sunday. Thousands of Gadhafi supporters poured into the streets of Tripoli on Sunday, waving flags and firing their guns into the air. (Associated Press)
Fighters against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi carry a comrade fatally injured to ... more >

Pro-Gadhafi forces have escalated their offensive in recent days in a seesaw struggle with rebel troops. Over the weekend, residents reported pitched battles in rebel-controlled cities, including Zawiya, Ras Lanuf and Misurata. The regime also conducted airstrikes on Brega and outside Ajdabiya.

On Sunday, rebels in Misurata beat back the fiercest attack so far by Gadhafi forces trying to retake the town. At least 18 people died in the fighting, a doctor told reporters.

However, rebels retreated on Sunday from Bin Jawad on the road to Surt, Col. Gadhafi’s hometown and a prize that the rebels are keen to capture.

Brega, Zawiya and Ras Lanuf have key oil terminals, and the provisional rebel government pledged Sunday to honor all oil contracts. Libya’s proven oil reserves are estimated at 43.7 billion barrels, the ninth-largest amount in the world, according to Oil and Gas Journal.

Libya’s security apparatus is broadly divided into four parts: the regular armed forces, security forces, the police, and revolutionary committees or militias. Since the outbreak of anti-government protests last month, the regime also has relied on Libyan-trained African mercenaries from Chad, Mali, Niger and Algeria to attack unarmed civilians.

The Gadhafi regime has dipped into Libya’s significant oil revenue to fund these mercenaries, who initially were sent to fight in other parts of Africa.

The southwestern city of Awbari is the “key entry point” for these mercenaries, said Ibrahim Sahad, a former captain in the Libyan army.

A majority of the military unit in Awbari is composed of soldiers from the nomadic Tuareg tribe from Mali and Niger, Mr. Sahad said.

“This unit is receiving mercenaries who are coming from Niger,” he said.

The African Union has condemned the use of force against civilians in Libya and urged dialogue between the groups.

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